Islamic State militants told the family of journalist James Foley, whom the group beheaded last week, that they had previously offered to return captured Americans in exchange for the release of Aafia Siddiqui ’95, an MIT alumna and alleged al-Qaida operative.
The militants called Siddiqui “our sister” in their email, which was released by GlobalPost last week.
Siddiqui was accused of firing at American soldiers in Afghanistan as they were taking custody of her in 2008. She was found guilty of attempted murder and assault in 2010 and is now being held in Fort Worth, Texas.
Born in Pakistan, Siddiqui immigrated to the U.S. in 1990, according to press reports. In 1995, she graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s in biology. While at MIT, she lived in McCormick Hall.
Siddiqui went on to study neuroscience at Brandeis University, where she received her PhD in 2001.
While in the Boston area, Siddiqui married and had three children. After she returned to Pakistan in 2002, she divorced her first husband and married Ammar al-Baluchi, who was allegedly involved in the financing of the Sept. 11 attacks and is now being held at Guantanamo Bay.
Siddiqui went missing shortly after the FBI put her on a ‘wanted’ list. But five years later, in a region where most women were illiterate, an Afghan shopkeeper saw her drawing a map and found it suspicious, according to press reports.
That day, Afghan police found instructions and chemicals for making bombs in her bag and arrested her.
Later in 2008, when she was to be transferred to Americans, she grabbed an M4 automatic rifle and fired at the FBI agents and U.S. Army officers present, prosecutors said. She was subdued after being shot in the abdomen.
The circumstances of Siddiqui’s extradition and trial in the U.S. won her sympathy among Pakistanis.
During Siddiqui’s trial, her lawyers argued that she suffered from a mental disorder, but a judge found her competent to stand trial, and she was ultimately convicted.